Datacenter operators dangle green benefits to lure tenants

Providers share their energy-efficiency secrets and link them to cost savings

Hardware vendors aren't the only organizations out there touting their green credentials to lure customers. Companies specializing in building and operating datacenters, both for individual and multiple tenants, are increasingly trumpeting the energy efficiency and eco-friendliness of their facilities. These traits not only appeal to the "save the planet" sensibilities of more environmentally conscious decision makers but to cost-conscious decision makers as well.

Among the datacenter operators celebrating green achievements is Fortune Data Centers, which recently earned LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Gold certification for an eight-megawatt facility in San Jose. By building and developing the facility with energy efficiency in mind, Fortune Data Centers asserts it will enjoy long-term cost savings that will be passed on to its tenants.

[ Learn how datacenter operator Digital Realty Trust transformed an old printing press into a LEED-certified datacenter. | Like green datacenter operators, companies find that green IT premiums are worth the cost. ]

"We're structuring our business so that customers can enjoy the benefits of LEED-certified datacenter space without paying a premium for it," said John Sheputis, CEO of Fortune Data Centers. "We believe companies shouldn't have to pay extra for energy efficiency; rather they should realize a reduction in costs."

The company revealed some of its techniques for reaping energy efficiency and securing the LEED certification, which is indicative of the fact that datacenter operators aren't nearly as secretive about best practices as they once were. One of the most significant energy-saving practices at the San Jose facility: Fortune has implemented an innovative "overhead down" approach to cooling servers, rather than the traditional "raised floor up." According to the company, this significantly contributes to its claimed Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE) rating of 1.37 at full load. (Like any PUE claim, this one should be taken with a grain of salt.)

[ The chief of the Uptime Institute cautions not to get caught up in the PUE hype. ]

In terms of datacenter infrastructure, the company says it invested in UPSes based on their energy-efficiency ratings, presumably instead of opting for the units with the lowest overall sticker prices. Fortune is also educating its customers on how to make their IT operations within the datacenter more energy efficient.

Environmental factors beyond slashing energy waste played in to the Fortune facility's LEED Gold certification. Among them, approximately 96 percent of the construction waste associated with the project -- some 1,136 tons of material -- was either recycled or reused on site, rather than ending up in a landfill.

Fortune isn't alone in publicly celebrating its green datacenter achievements. Colocation provider Hurricane Electric, the world's largest IPv6-native Internet backbone, recently announced the third build-out of a 208,000-square-foot datacenter project in Fremont, Calif. The newly added 24,000-square-foot space has a power capacity of three megawatts and, according to Hurricane, employs some of the most efficient equipment and techniques available.

Among them, the facility uses 9395 UPS systems from Eaton, which operate at 99 percent efficiency in Energy Saver Mode. Per Eaton, "Energy Saver Mode enables users with extremely high efficiency and reliability where the load is under normal operating conditions fed through static bypass switch (bypass rectifier and inverter) and the actual UPS part (rectifier and inverter) is only turned on when utility power is lost, or while it is out of pre-specified limits by its voltage or frequency."

Moreover, Hurricane installed the Maverick II Rooftop HVAC system from McQuay, which features VFDs (variable-frequency drives), a system for controlling the rotational speed of fans. Rather than blowing at 100 percent power all the time, the system adjusts to meet current cooling demands. The system can also operate in "economizer mode," in which it uses outside air to cool the datacenter for (essentially) free.

[ Intel realized the potential for significant savings in an innovative experiment in free cooling. ]

Like Fortune, Hurricane clearly connects the dots between green and cost savings. "Our energy-efficient infrastructure reduces our carbon footprint," said Benny Ng, Hurricane Electric's director of infrastructure. "But it also reduces our energy bills, making our services more cost-competitive."

Speaking of green and cost savings, both Fortune and Hurricane landed cash incentives from California utility PG&E for their respective green-datacenter projects. Fortune secured around $900,000 for its efforts. Hurricane is receiving a more modest sum, between $10,000 and $50,000.

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